Discover Meru County
Brief Overview of Meru County
Many travellers to Meru County arrive along the A2 Nairobi-Meru Road – more proper Cape-Cairo Road extending from Kenya-Tanzania border at Namanga to the Ethiopian border at Moyale, or along the B6 Embu-Meru Road. Either way, both these good roads travel through the southern quarter of Meru County and across a cornucopia of indelible landscapes with the flanks of Mount Kenya, the attractive township of Meru and the picture-postcard series of volcanic hills of Nyambeni Range piecing together one of the most pleasing landscapes in Kenya from the point of view of scenery. Along the A2 Road between Nanyuki to Meru Towns (76 kms apart) one enjoys great wide-angle views of a fairytale ecological gamut as the road bends and drops some 2000 ft down the Timau Escarpment, after crossing the salubrious farmlands at Timau, to jaw dropping views across the plains below through Isiolo and to the turnoff into Buffalo Springs Reserve.
The much-prized but seldom talked about motoring pilgrimage around Mount Kenya, a journey of 290 kms along the A2 and B6 through the towns of Embu, Chuka, Meru, Timau, Nanyuki and Karatina is a long-standing adventure. From Nanyuki it is possible to to take your vehicle to 13,000 feet to the far end of the Sirimon Track. Those who plan a quick yatra trip around Mount Kenya would be well advised to plan their journey over the drier months of the year, and best soon after the rains when the flourishing and graminaceous countryside is at its very best. Meru County has five recognizable topographic areas of interest: the lower north-eastern flanks of Mount Kenya alluded to above; the north-east to south-west Nyambeni Range and its associated hillocks, forests and craters; the upstanding monadnocks along the north-western boundary; the protuberant rock mountains of Mpogoro Forest; and the Nyambeni lowlands which consist of the lower and terminal lavas of both Mount Kenya and the Nyambeni Range.
Generally speaking, the physical condition of Kenya plays a critical role in Meru County. The hills which run parallel to the Coast Region of Kenya, a few miles inland, divide the semi-arid shrubland from the coastal region by considerably influencing the distribution of rain. These particular hills check the rain clouds and the dried-up vegetation which marches along the entire western flank only disappears when the higher ranges of Mount Kenya are reached; which breaks-up the clouds that pass over the lower coastal hills. The result is higher average rainfall in Meru County and its surrounding areas. This, in addition to the rich volcanic soil, makes Meru one of the most fertile places in Kenya. The Mau and other higher ranges like Aberdare in the interior break up other clouds passing over the lower coastal hills. By the same token, the highest rainfall in Kenya is found in these three zones which are plateaus of remarkable highland greenery.
Salient Features of Meru County
- County Number 12
- Area – 5127 km2
- Altitude – 5000 ft
- Major Towns – Meru, Maua, Nkubu
- Borders – Isiolo, Nyeri, Tharaka-Nithi, Laikipia, Kitui, Tana River
Brief History of Meru County
The chronicles of the struggle for independence in Kenya so far appears to be selective to Nyeri area and the southern half of Mount Kenya. While plenty has been written about the role of the Kikuyu in this struggle, the fast-disappearing role of the opposite-number Ameru is not much over with, yet, their pertinent contributions sealed an immutable bond among the tribes living around Mount Kenya. Indeed, the Ameru played an invaluable role in the mobilization and participation of the Mau Mau rebellions. Hitherto, Ameru Tribe was carefully structured and controlled by the powerful Njuri Ncheke council of elders. Njuri was the traditional system of governance for the entire Ameru community, with its headquarters at Nchiru in Tigania west. The fertile highland areas around Meru were always going to be a great prospect for the colonial settlers and as it were, in 1903, Edward B. Horne was appointed the first District Commissioner of Meru. His office, now housing Meru National Museum, was the first building erected with stone in Meru. Soon after his arrival he declared the area within a radius of one mile from his headquarter and a township under the Ordinance Act of 1903 advanced. Conjectures about the newcomers were many and varied.
Places of Interest in Meru County
1. Kierra Valley
From Chogoria Town, in the northeast corner of Tharaka Nithi County, it is a 10 kms drive north via B6 Embu-Meru Road to Igoji Center and the first gateway township in Meru County. The drive between these two towns and northerly to Nkubu 16 kms away is revered for the breathtaking view of Kierra backdropped by Kierra Ridge. The Kierra Viewpoint at Kanthiga Village – between Kaaga and Runogone near Meru Town, has been in existence for many years and offers the best views of one of the knockout landscapes in this region. Set at the doorstep of Mount Kenya, this heart-warming lookout takes in the ranges, forests, plains and hillocks. This is reminiscent of the stupefying view of the Great Rift Valley. Known locally as Kierra or Mukera, which loosely translating to valley, a trip to Tharaka Nithi and Meru Counties should not omit a look-see of this lovely vista.
2. Kierra Ridge
As early as 1912 the Kierra Ridge (or the Kierra Hill) just east of Chogoria Town had attracted the attention of prospectors. During that year, Messrs A. Gamble and W. G. Parker pegged claims on the southwest flank of the Kierra Ridge to exploit the mica pegmatites occurring there. In 1942, the southern slopes of Kierra Ridge was yet again the subject of tantalizing geological prospects for mica and the possibility of the occurrence in them of minerals such as nickel and chronium ores. “Dr. W. Pulfrey had recognized the presence of plenteous masses of mineral rich basic rock. A reconnaissance of the area was, therefore, undertaken between April and November. 1948, to determine the extent of the basic rocks, degree of mineralization and the most favourable localities for the prospecting. The examination of the basic plutonics did not, however, give much promise”. North of the Kierra Ridge is a chain of picturesque conical hills.
3. St. Mary’s High School, Igoji
Soon as his arrival in 1907 Edward Butler Horne (the D.C.) earnestly set about the onerous task of bringing the modern world to this back-country. A man of great organizational skills and healthy optimism, he took upon himself many projects that were bedevilled by a shortage of cash, undeveloped infrastructure, and a lugubrious if not distrustful response by the locals. Nicknamed ‘Kangangi’ by the local people for his love of wandering all over their land, Horne granted United Methodist Church territorial rights in Meru where they first established a mission station at Kagaa in 1912. The next move was to mobilize the children, initially boys only, for “kusoma”, the Kiswahili word for reading, which came to mean Christianity, as the two were inseparable. Beyond doubt one of the oldest modern schools in Meru, St. Mary’s High School at Igoji was started on April 11, 1943, by the Consolata Sisters, as an intermediate school for girls on a five-acre piece of land donated by the community. “Many of the original buildings are still standing, including the kitchen and attached dining hall, dormitories and the classrooms. Walls are built of chisel dressed stone under a corrugated iron sheets housetop. The windows are glazed in wooden casements with wire mesh protection while doors are made of timber match-boarding” – Douglas Kiereini.
4. Devil’s Bridge Falls
This whooper on the left hand side along the B6 Embu-Meru Road – about 300 meters past Gikumene Primary School and before negotiating the famous sharp corner at Ngo’nyii – can be sighted as you drive by and is accessible by means of a quick but steep pathway often with a rough mud-caked underfoot to the base. Locally known as the Ndurumo-ya-Irine, it spectacularly drops almost 300 feet, turning to a misty gash close to the naturally formed pool at the base. About 30 meters from the falls is a huge boulder upon which the water has cut through as River Riiji proceeds on its run. This rock is traditionally known as the “uroro-bwa-nkoma” or “ndaracha-ya-nkoma” which means devil’s bridge. “In the olden days, the place was an important source of red and white ochre, or nondoo in Kimeru language, used by various communities for decorating their bodies. It was also peculiarly used by women to draw a line on their heads when hosting a community party”. In context of its topographic profile, the area around Nkubu marks the lowermost flows of Mount Kenya and Devil’s Falls occurs over one of the rarely exposed phonolites building-up to a thickness of more than a 110 feet.
5. Tharuu Springs
Sometimes cited as Tharuu Mineral Waters, these are among the prettiest of the naturally occurring springs around Tharuu Village, found a few kilometres west of Nkubu via the Nkubu-Kionyo Road. Less of a tourism destination than a no-frills adventure in nature, these series of natural water springs have, for as long as folk have lived here, being indefatigable albeit mysteriously transuding both saline and fresh water and the subject of much fascination. Especially poignant when viewed from above, walking along the rock formation where they occur, Tharuu Springs are a thought-provoking natural wonder. ‘Mwonyo jwa Thaaru’ as they are known to the locals, these battery of springs bubbling on the rock-strewn area of the site discharge an invariable stream of mineral water used for different purposes. “There were certain mineral waters meant for human beings and others meant for their livestock. There are some mineral springs that only produce water safe for human consumption and others produce water good for cooking only, specially local vegetables, arrowroots and maize” – Meru County.
6. Giitune Sacred Forest
The drive up to Meru Town from Nkubu is akin to taking an aerial jaccuzi, on a narrowed road that is steep and winding on some sections and aligns with the contours in the saddle of the hills. It travels through a generously wooded area, with the terrain rising eastwards towards Mount Kenya and marked by a wide valley and belts of farms on the other side (sometimes concealed by the trees) to form a pleasant roadside scene. The densely-wooded Giitune Forest at Gatimbi Village – between Nkubu and Meru, marches astride the Equator and has been adduced as a zen place of unrivaled serenity, where age old traditions are still in full-bloom and where cordial traditional rituals are still performed. There are many traditional myths and taboos associated with Giitune Forest not least that it is taboo to fell a tree in the forest. Concomitantly, it is revered as sacred, and it has retained much of its beauty and bio diversity. The forest has unique plant species such as the giant yellow mulberry, African wild olive and large-leafed cordia: A living-museum for young generations to learn about the significance of cultural knack in preserving the natural environment. If you want to walk in this forest do so by going through Meru Town and you will have fewer problems with the car. It sits just 16 kms southeast of Meru Town along Meru-Mitunguu Road. 1 km away from Giitune Sacred Forest sits the Tamaduni Cultural Centre.
7. Tamaduni Cultural Centre
The Equator Tamaduni Cultural Centre is a private museum founded by Mzee John Rukunga Kithingiri. At the museum one can find a great deal of Ameru traditional artefacts in the general classes of weaponry, kitchenware, clothing, farm implements and ornaments that are well preserved and conserved. All in all there are over 300 artefacts. Additionally, there is a re-enacted traditional Ameru homestead depicting in fine details the traditional assembly of a typical Ameru Clan. This includes the Ameru Warrior Hut adorned with the apposite regalia. “Meru traditional warrior’s hut (gaaru-e-nthaka) was a roomy thatched hut with long grass from top to bottom, as it had no mud walls. During the old days it served as a big dormitory accommodating forty to fifty warriors, and was their dwelling place till one got married and moved out to start his own home.”
8. Meru Museum
The circular trip around Mount Kenya reaches Meru Town about 16 kms north of Nkubu on a fascinating drive through the hitcher of thither of the 6th largest urban centre in Kenya. It has no less that thirty well established tourist grade hotels in and around the town and all the indispensable logistics one may need, including banking. For many years Meru Town has had one of the most enliven nightlife scenes in Central Kenya and a flourishing food and hotel industry. For many travellers to the region it’s more of a necessary milestone. Nevertheless it has a few stopovers to interest the visitor. Meru Museum is situated between Barclays Bank Meru and Meru County Hotel within the township and along the B6 Embu-Meru Road. Built in 1917 as a seven-rooms residence for the District Commissioner and the first stone building in Meru Town, it was reestablished in 1974 as the Meru Museum. It expositions cultural artefacts and historical mementos associated with the Ameru Community. A compound of traditional huts has been constructed on the grounds, with a miniature animal orphanage and snake pit. A faded statue of Mugwe, the God-chosen man believed to be the divine leader of the Ameru Community lends credence to the set of beliefs in the region. Occasionally you can catch a group of dancers and musical stagings.
9. Kathita Falls
On a long afternoon out in Meru you can explore the Kathita or Ntontanii Falls (providing it’s dry) located about 1.5 kms west of the main town either through Mwendantu Road on your way to Milimani, Kinoru, Giantune and other places, or using the Kaithe Road that goes past the Meru Stardia. River Kathita Falls at Gitwiki Gardens is an entrancing, unique, and truly scenic wonder. As the area around Meru attracts heavy rainfall the surrounding country is never without a vibrant undertone of greenery. Rising in Mount Kenya and the longest river in Meru County, River Kathita flows around the well-documented Ithaguni Hill in Mount Kenya and at the doorstep of the Rutundu Cabins before reaching Meru Town thence draining into the Tana, which is the main reciepient of most of the rivers in Central Kenya. Although not necessary, it is advisable to take along a local guide to help navigate the thickly wooded boondocks and intertwining footpaths. Kathita Falls is juxtaposed close to a smaller falls along Mpuri River which is reachable without too much difficulty that’s worthwhile to visit and to put in comparison or discern the contrasting effects of this two picture-postcard falls. Both these waterfalls are less than 2 kilometers from the Meru Township.
10. Kaaga War Memorial
The B6 Embu-Meru Road and C91 Meru-Maua Road junction in Meru Town is the famous Makutano. The nickname, which now refers to many busy junctions around Kenya, originated in the early 1950’s as small shopping centers sprung up at these busy intersections. Kaaga War Memorial is located 2.4 kms north of Meru Town along the C91 Meru-Maua Road in Kaaga Primary School. Granted that this tiny brick house concealed by indigenous trees and set in bush is in a state of much rack and ruin, its importance in preserving the touchy history of colonialism in Kenya far outweighs its lack of appeal on appearance. In all sense of the term quite a small building, partitioned into two equal separate rooms, it is supposed to have been a major military base, constructed during the World Wars for use by colonial military for various purposes. “Unconfirmed tales have it that King George V1 of England was hidden away in this building during the Second World War”. Be that as may it may, it is more associated with the King’s African Rifles, the precursor to todays Kenya Army Calvary Battalion who later used the small building as an armory when Kenya was still a colony. Important to note is that the area around Meru has a long-lived history as a military camp during in the colonial days, as confirmed by a number of colonial era disused munitions found at hand in recent times. The locals of older generation referred this location as ‘gwa kia’, meaning the place of the K.A.R – King’s African Rifles.
11. Kaithandu Hill
Just in case you want to sight the Kierra Valley 200 ms above the surrounding landscape, Kaithandu Hill is one of Meru’s finest viewing ledges, which rarely disappoints. As alluded to earlier, the Kierra Valley is a staggering beautiful no-man’s land in amazing contrast to Mount Kenya and its associated forests. It is especially stupendous when viewed along the 3 kms stretch between Kaaga and Runogone Market where Kaithandu Hill is located. Rising to 1618 ms and 200 ms above the surrounding landscape, the summit of Kiathandi Hill provides an excellent base to take in the landscape of Meru. The amusing unexacting hiking trail eventually gets to the top of this hill which is round and flat with a vegetal profile of a forest patch, shrubs and grass turfs, making it an ideal site to picnic. Kiathandi Hill is found near Runogone Market 2 kms off C91 Meru-Maua Road.
12. Mpogoro Forest
Mpogoro Forest is found in Mikinduri, about 25 kms east of Runogone Market along Runogone-Mikinduri Road. It can also be reached via C91 Road through Mathene. It is an indigenous forest with sundry indigenous species of flora and fauna. It retains unique plant species that include the now rare indigenous tall trees, bushes, thickets and various species of undergrowths. Even so, it is best known for the colossal rock formations. “Mpogoro” translates to the rock forest simply because the hills in which the forest is found are very rocky and a very huge rock is found within the forest. The Runogone-Mikinduri Road traverses just outside the forest offering an easy alternative to snag views of the Mpogoro.
13. Stone Woman at Kieiga Forest
This is a cosmic rock found in the forest and it’s shaped like a woman weaving a basket in Kieiga forest along Meru-Mikinduri Road. The shape of the rock when viewed from some distance appears artistically and skillfully purport a woman weaving a basket, and is the most unique and mysterious feature of the forest which serves to give the forest a mystical and spiritual outlook. The locals refer to the rock as “Muchiere” which in the lingua-franca is a “woman at her prime”.
14. Njuri Ncheke Headquarters at Nchiru
The Njuri-Ncheke Headquarters at Nchiru is one the most important historical and cultural pillars of the Meru Community. For many years their headquarters building, donated in 1985 to the National Museum of Kenya to be held in trust on behalf of the people of Kenya, has served as a great attraction. Njuri Ncheke, or the panel of clan judges, is the indigenous institution of governance in Meru County and which still holds merit in the modern-day Ameru prerogatives. This oval-shaped brick holding with a domed roof built in the 1960’s and referred to as “Nyomba ya Njuri” or the House of Njuru Ncheke offers a rare glimpse of the well-guarded process and sagacity of the supreme governing council of elders and apex of the Meru traditional judicial system. “It’s here that the elders meet to discuss serious matters that involve their community as well as settle serious strife involving the Meru people” – David Muchui. After independence, Njuri Ncheke experienced a lull that saw the shrine abandoned, leading to vandalism and theft of rare hardwood used in its roofing. It is important to note that each of the Meru sub-tribes have their own unique Njuri-Ncheke Shrine. Another easily accessible shrines is Rwerea Shrine located in Mikinduri about 1 km from Mikinduri Center along Mikinduri-Mlango Road, the court of Tigania sub-tribe.
15. Ngaya Forest
Situated between the Nyambene Forest Reserve and Meru National Park, and enclosed by the adjacent agricultural landscape comprising of Murera Springs and Kiriyu, the 40 km2 Ngaya Forest stands-out in perched dissimilarity to the community developments and farmlands of Igembe North. Under the aegis of Kenya Forest Service, at an elevation of 1249 ms above sea level, Ngaya Forest is one of the few remaining stands of indigenous equatorial forest in Kenya. Its sobriquet as an “elephant maternity” answers to the historical pattern of eles’ delivering their young in this lone forest patch, that is continually under threat of anthropogenic activities. Meru National Park and its surrounding environs is crisscrossed by thirteen perennial rivers and streams with their headwaters at Nyambene Forest Reserve and Ngaya Forest. Away from the mores and human progress in Igembe North, this compact forest offers a reposeful site to unwind and rejuvenate, along its trails with variegated vegetal splash brightened-up by multi-coloured butterflies and birds. Around the middle of the forest there is a huge tree with a hollow once used by Mau Mau fighters during the struggle for Kenya’s independence in the early 1950’s up to early 1960’s. Various types of wildlife can be sighted to include primates like velvet and Colobus monkeys and there have been reports of sighting of leopards. Larger mammals once prolific here have retreated to Meru National Park and Nyambene Forest Reserve in the wake of burgeoning settlements. It is found 40 kms from Maua along C91 Road.
16. Meru National Park
There are two gates into Meru National Park: Via A2 Nanyuki-Meru Road and C91 Meru-Nchiru-Maua Road – entering at Murera Gate – distance from Meru to Murera Gate 67 kms; Via B6 Embu-Meru Road and C92 Embu-Marimanti-Gatunga Road – entering at the Ura River Gate – distance from the B6 Embu-Meru Road to Ura River Gate 61 kms. Famous as where “Elsa the Lioness” was rehabilitated, in one of the prettiest national parks in Kenya, the 870 km2 Meru National Park is also a warm tribute to Peter Jenkins; the warden of that time who converted it from a devastated landscape to one of the best run in Kenya. The park itself is generally a hot low country but extremely well watered, with no less than 9 permanent rivers. One of the main rivers, the Rojewero, roughly divides the park into two contrasting zones. To its north, the country is an open acacia savannah grassland, and in parts combretum bush, under black cotton soil. “To the south of the Rojowero River the country is of the red sandy soil type, cut by innumerable sand luggas, and the vegetation is dense commiphora, wait-a-bit and thron shrub interpersed with baobab trees.” It commences at an altitude 2600 ft (north) at the foothills of Nyambene Range dropping down to 1200 ft (south) at Tana River where it links to Mwingi National Reserve and Kora National Park. It is contiguous with Bisanadi National Reserve along its eastern frontier. Unique to Meru National Park is that it lacks a focal point of a great spectacle. Instead, it manifests itself as a valuable ecological area where wildlife can be spotted in plenty. Moreover, the park is small enough with well laid out roads and there are fully-equipped lodges. It is a peaceful park that is well worth more than one visit. Having such diverese types of habitat wildlife, and the birds in particular, are second to none. There is excellent course fishing here in all its rivers, and a fishing permit can be obtained from the park’s office.
17. Twin Baobab Tree
“If trees could tell stories, then a giant twin baobab tree found in Meru National Park would have a lot to tell us. Perhaps the tree would tell us about the wildlife that have grazed around its roots over the years or of those that have lived in its hollow trunk. But the most exhilarating story the baobab tree might tell is that of an encounter between Mau Mau freedom fighters and colonial government forces that took place in mid the 1950s during the height of the fight for Kenya’s independence” – Friends of MNP. The hollowed twin baobab tree is located at the Kina Area south of the Park’s Office and Kina Airstrip and is best-known for its singular epic as an inconspicuous and highly efficient kitchen used by Mau Mau Freedom Fighters during the 1952-60 uprising. It helped the fighters keep a low profile in a war that was mainly pursued in the forest, with artful survival and defense strategies on both sides. The Twin Baobab Tree is passed en-route many places of interest in the Park to include River Rojewero and Ikweta Camp.
18. Elsa’s Kopje
The wildly-sensational and acclaimed Elsa’s Kopje Lodge on Mughwango Hill in Meru National Park is fabled for its prodigious and stunning vistas of the Meru Plains. As the name suggests, the 10-cottages Elsa Kopje is set on the bloggable site of George Adamson’s camp from where he raised Elsa the orphaned lioness on a remarkable edge of a poised rock outcrop or kopje. Its swanky swimming pool blurs the line between lodge and the uninterrupted breathtaking views of the boundless wilderness below it. Plenty of adventure await visitors to Elsa’s Kopje including day and evening game drives around Meru National Park in a customized 4×4 game-viewing vehicles; guided expeditions up Mughwango Hill (which offers remarkable 360 degree views), day excursions to Tana River and Kora National Reserve, visits to the rhino sanctuary, line-fishing in spring-fed streams, and to the Born Free Museum. Air Kenya and Safarilink operate daily flight to Elsa’s Kopje Lodge – which is the easiest and best means to arrive here.
19. Adamsons Falls Bridge
The longevous George Adamson’s Bridge linking Kora National Park with Meru National Park and Mwingi North Reserve was named in honour of the renown explorer and reformist George Adamson, famous for his gutsy effort to revamp and ameliorate Kora National Park. The steel fabricated bridge built between 1986 and 1990 is crossed from Meru National Park that’s the usual jumping-off place to Kora National Park, and the universal welcome to land of “Born Free” – one of the world’s fairy tales on wildlife conservation recounted in the self-same titled bestseller penned by Joy Adamson. George Adamson’s Bridge also serves as a useful observation deck to sight the Adamson’s Rapids and Falls situated about 100 ms from the bridge. A lovely picnic site and walking trail have been in existence for years although seldom used. It crosses the mighty Tana River – Kenya’s longest – which also marks the northern frontier of both Kora National Park and Tana River County. From here, the stalwart Tana forms the natural eastern boundary of Tana River County before terminating at the Indian Ocean.
20. The Giant Footprints
These embossed footprints at Laaria Village of Lolera Location in Tigania West tend to make one think of the Lwayo la Mulungu (or God’s footprint) located in Kwale County, which up until now continue to baffle the imagination of native Wa-Duruma; or the incised footprints at Holy Nzaui Rock in Makueni County said to impressed while the rock was still wet alongside the foot prints of a cow signaling that the deities abundantly blessed these lands; or again, the foot-like imprints on a rock at Givera Shrine in Vihiga County, sometimes referred to as Matsigulu Mystery Rocks. At all these locations, having considered the odds, attribute the strange footprints to ‘Jesus’ who they all believe must have walked here or there. Geologically, the Giant Footprints at Laaria appear to be of the earliest men who stepped on molten rock during the formation of Nyambene Range through volcanicity. Laaria Village is located 8 kms from Ruiri Centre via the new tarmacked D490 Ruiri-Isiolo Road which branches-off C91 Meru-Maua Road 4 kms from Meru Town. Isiolo sits 38 kms north of Meru via D490 Road.
21. Giant Meru Oak
Alternatively named “King Muuru” by the local folk, the lofty 160 ft. tall Giant Meru Oak with a width of 12 ft. is thought to be over 360 years old and belongs to a species endemic to this area. It is a deciduous tree capable of growing to a height of 250 ft. Treasured as Meru’s oldest trees and the mother of all trees in the Imenti Forest, King Muuru stands sentinel over the forest canopy and can been seen from miles out. The oak tree is easily sighted from the Kenya Forest Service office found 4 kms from Meru Town along the B6 Meru-Nanyuki Road.
Members of the local community visit the forest frequently not just to enjoy the cool surroundings, but also the sight of the giant tree and the beautiful landscape. The forest is a perfect example of how mother nature, without human interference, can take care of itself to give humankind the very best that it has to offer. – the Nation Media Group
22. Lake Nkunga
Lake Nkunga, “the lake of the dreaded beast” which totally makes a justifiable precis for its eerie outlook expressing a pensive and wistful mood, has been shrouded with a veil of mystery and awe not least because it is believed to have hosted the fabled 7-head dragon known as Nkunga. Over and above that, Lake Nkunga is a long-standing cultural shrine considered a hallowed ground and where traditional elders made sacrifices to their deities. Unique to the Lake is the mass of aquatic grass which almost completely encrust the lake, giving it the appearance of a salmagundi of picturesque floating mats and interlinking bogs. Lake Nkunga is found in a volcanic crater within the Imenti Forest, which is an extension of Mount Kenya Forest. There is a viewing point on the south-end of the Lake. It is located 10 kms from Meru Town along the B6 Embu-Meru Road, taking a right turn immediately after passing the Nkunga Catholic Church. “Its splendorous beauty strikes and embraces you the moment you set foot in this sacred place. Nkunga stretches her arms wide open, like a modern state-of-the-art stadium welcoming fans for a grand match. The green carpet at the base completes the picture only that instead of tiered spectator seats, heavy-set tree trunks, wide branches, and heavy floor vegetation envelops the “playground” Nkunga blossoms with delightful beauty, a characteristic of indigenous forests”.
23. Mucheene Forest Station
Mucheene Forest Station into Mount Kenya forest lies 19 kms from Meru Town en route Nanyuki along B6 Embu-Meru Road and taking a left turnoff at Kiirua Market to the forest station. It is best-known as one the fire prone areas in an arc across the lower western forest to the northeastern moorlands (along with the Gathiuru, Nanyuki, Ontulili, Marania and Meru forest stations) occasionally ravaged by fires in the dry seasons of January to March and June to September. Concomitantly, these forest stations are marked by planted forests to replenish the sections wiped-out by fires. At Mucheene Forest the youths are continually involved in seed production, in pruning and in maintenance. “The Conservation Environmental Facility (CEF) program of the Community Development Trust Fund (CDTF) which was a joint initiative of the DANIDA, EUROPEAN UNION and Kenya Government has so far released funding of almost Shs. 20 million to assist in conservation efforts at Mucheene forest” – Ikiara I. Gichuru. Some of the highlights on a visit to the Mucheene Forest Station include tours of the tree nurseries, rehabilitated forest areas, the apiary, Mucheene Cave, and Lake Thai.
24. Mucheene Caves
Mucheene cave in Mount Kenya Forest, an unrevealed hideout for the Mau Mau fighters from Meru at the pinnacle of Kenya’s struggle for independence in the 1950’s to 1960’s, is remarkably in the same state as it was used by the freedom fighters. It is set about in bush not very far from the forest station. According to Mau Mau chronicles, the cave is associated with luminaries like field Marshal Musa Mwariama, M’ Ikiara Nyonta (Major Ruku) and General Mathenge. It was also associated with a plotting to seek assistance from Ethiopia’s Emperor Haile Sellasie through the acquaintances they had made while in Ethiopia during the war. Mucheene Cave would later be used as the armoury and distribution point for munitions brought in from Ethiopia to other Mau Mau locales around Meru.
25. Lake Thai
Lake Thai is situated deep in the forest of Mount Kenya in the upper part of the forest which starts at Mucheene Forest Station and goes up along the forest. It’s the same route used to go in the potato farms within these forests. The Njuri Ncheke elders used the Lake Thai as a sacred shrine for worship and offering sacrifices. These sacrifices were offered at seasons of calamities like prolonged drought and outbreak of epidemics among other adversities. These offering of sacrifices included slaughtering of sheep which used to be of one colour as they chanted ‘thai’ ‘thai’ ‘thai’, hence its self-same title. The word ‘thai’ means peace.
26. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy
24 kms from Meru Town en route Nanyuki the B6 Embu-Meru Road meets A2 Nanyuki-Meru Road on an approach which would cut across Lewa Conservancy and Ngare Ndare moving forward. Lewa Conservancy, which stretches across north from the intersection lining-up with the A2 Road as its eastern limit and bound in the north by Leparua Community Conservancy in Isiolo County, was begun in 1983 as Ngare Sergoii Rhino Sanctuary and reestablished in 1995 as Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Its far-reaching wildlife conservation projects have anted-up the complex game of endangered wildlife bouncing back and a second chance to thrive. A multi-award recipient for its conservation model, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013 and featured on the IUCN Green List of successful protected areas, Lewa is the nexus of conservation and sustainable tourism in Northern Kenya and their working model has provided a framework used widely in the region. Today, the 250 km2 Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, that is contiguous with Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve in the south, is home to 11% of Kenya’s rhinos and the world’s largest bevy of Grevy’s zebra. 70 other species of mammals including elephant, lion, giraffe, leopard and buffalo also roam freely here. Almost 50,000 people directly benefit from Lewa’s projects in education, health, water management, infrastructure upgrades, micro-enterprise projects, improved security and much more. Lewa is home to five luxury lodges – Craig’s House, Sirikoi House, Kifaru House, Lewa Wilderness and Lewa Safari Camp. In addition, travellers can enjoy three additional accommodation options at the adjoined Borana Conservancy: Borana Lodge, Laragai House and Arijiju Lodge.
27. Nyambene Forest Reserve
96 kms from Meru Town along B6 Embu-Meru Road, north along A2 Nanyuki-Isiolo Road, and then northeast along B9 Isiolo-Mandera Roads sits Nyambene Forest, originally gazetted as a 640 km2 forest reserve under Kenya legal notice and reestablished in 2002 as the 265 km2 Nyambene National Reserve. “Kenya is home to various sacred natural sites, including forests, mountains and rivers. Indigenous communities have preserved their role and responsibilities, passed down over centuries by their ancestors, as custodians of these places through time. The 5391-hectare in the Nyambene Forest in Central Kenya is a sacred site to the Ameru Community living along the northeastern slopes of Mount Kenya. It’s a resource from which customs, spiritual practices, and governance systems are derived to protect the territory as a whole and maintain its order, integrity and well-being” – Gloria Borana. Contiguous with Samburu National Reserve and abutting with Buffalo Springs National Reserve, it’s named after Nyambene Range, its most conspicuous geological feature that rises to an altitude of 2514 ms. The landscape around Nyambene Forest Reserve is a moving spiritual and cultural site and a biosphere of unprecedented beauty. A sanctum to behold and be captivated by the simple beauty of an unspoiled forest. It also hosts Igombe or Magado Crater. The summit of Nyambene Hill or Range can be reached on a long afternoon hiking adventure. “The birds nesting place or “Gachiuru” as its locally called, is a bird watchers paradise within Nyambene. Populated with over 10000 nests artistically hanging in acacia trees. The birds are active during the morning hours and in the evenings. Birds to be found here include the great horned owls, balbers, doves, and the greater sage grouse, amongst many others.
28. Iga Ria Ngutu
Loosely translating to the “rock of the circumcised girl” or again as “the rock of a recently circumcised girl who has moved out and is ready to be married”, Iga Ria Ngutu is symbolic of one of the venerated traditional initiation rituals in the Ameru Community. Quite uncanny in its said appearance, with a huge boulder wedged at the top of a dark crack-cave and which water trickles to the ground right down the middle, Iga Ria Ngutu is symbolic of both the initiation rituals and their importance. The dark-crack is symbolic of the house of a newly wed, which based on traditions of foregone years was meant to be very dark, so that people were not able to see what was going indoors. It also depicts the physical initiation process. It’s found in the Kiolo area within Nyambene Forest Reserve.
29. Magado Crater
Magado Crater, which is formed of pools of saline water shinning with many colours and which has been a shared well for salt and a meeting place for the multiplicity of communities living around it, is truly a marvel of nature. A trip to the Magado Crater not only offers a chance to visit an untravelled oddity that lacks recognition, as a great spectacle, but one that also offers a rare chance to watch miners extracting the raw salt brine. It is accessible from Mutuati, off the Isiolo-Mandera Road, or from Nakuprat-Gotu and Shaba National Reserve. The small lake on the floor of the Magado Crater evaporates to form the kooky soda salt crust. The Ameru people have apparently been collecting soda in this crater for thousands of years. In recent years, the Ameru as well as the Borana and the Somali cultures have shared the salt pools. During the rainy season, these three tribes communally water their cattle in this natural collecting basin. During the dry season, as the small lake recedes, the soda that remains behind is collected. It’s found on the eastern edge of Nyambene Reserve 64 kms east of Isiolo Town.
30. Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve
The 55.5 km2 Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve, an indigenous forest linking Mount Kenya National Park, Borana Ranch and Lewa Conservancy in the southeastern area of Laikipia County, forms part of the lower-lying areas of the Mount Kenya National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site together with Lewa Conservancy. Revered for its African olives and red cedar trees, Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve serves as a dominant elephant migratory route. It was one of the finalist for the 2014 Equator Prize Initiative awarded for the laudable work by the indigenous people living around forests whose efforts are geared towards their protection and restoration towards mitigating climate change. The azure pools glistening at the bottom of a waterfalls and 200 year old trees stretching into the canopy and supporting a rich variety of bird and animal life are the biggest pullers to the Ndare-Ndare. Other attractions include the 0.5 km tree canopy walk, forest camping, walking, game drives and birding. The main gate into Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve is found 42 kms from Nanyuki along A2 Nanyuki to Meru Road.
31. Mount Kenya National Park
Almost half of the area of Mount Kenya National Park sits in Meru County – the rest shared by Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Embu and Tharaka Nithi Counties. The scenery around Mount Kenya is one of the magnificent landscape in Kenya. All the area over 11000 ft forms Mount Kenya National Park, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 for its unique flora and bio-diversity range. Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy form the low-lying parts of the World Heritage Site. These two properties are connected via a wildlife corridor which is part of the buffer zone for the park, and which provides connectivity for elephants moving between Mount Kenya and the larger conservation arc of Samburu-Ewaso Ecosystem. Especially popular as a hiking destination, the 715 km2 park offers exciting prospects for day excursion and a rewarding challenge for the strong-minded hikers aiming for its peaks. Once through the gate, there are spectacular forests, moorlands, valleys and tarns seen en-route to the peaks.
32. Sirimon Route
There are seven public entrances into Mount Kenya National Park: Naro Moru, Sirimon and Chogoria Gates on the east, northeast and west side being the most popular. Sirimon Route 28 kms from Nanyuki Town launches at Sirimon Gate 2600 ms (8530 feet) ASL and is about 25 kms in length to Lenana Peak. This is the most popular starting-point and perhaps the most scenic trail, which is also fairly navigable as it passes on the leeward (drier) side of Mount Kenya. Old Moses Camp, Liki North Camp, Shiptons Camp are the main camps along this route. Once through the gate, it’s a wondrous walk through the moorlands and gallery forests to Old Moses Camp at 3300 ms and the first overnight stop. It takes about 3-4 hrs, gaining in elevation 680 ms, on a moderate gradient. Day 2, leaving Old Moses Camp, the trail returns to the moorlands with switchbacks in alpine heath, past the splendid Mackinders Valley, before reaching Shiptons Camp at 4200 ms, the second night’s stop. Day 2 is long days climb of 14 kms covered in about 7 hours and gaining 900 ms in altitude. Although subject to preference, Day 3 is traditionally a rest day at Shiptons Camp and a useful way to acclimatize and inspirit the beauty of the mountain before the push to Point Lenana. Day 4 kicks-off early, at 3:00 am, on a 3-hours hike to Point Lenana at 4985 ms. The route goes up a steep frozen scree and past Hall Tarn. Mount Kenya Bandas are the layover on Day 4 on the descent. Day 5 is an easy 10 kms descent via Chogoria Route to Chogoria Town on the east-side of Mount Kenya.
33. Mount Kenya One-Day Trips
For mountain, forest and nature-lovers a day out on Mount Kenya is the next best thing to heaven provided the weather is good. An early morning start from Nairobi could bring you to Meru, Timau or Nanyuki in time for breakfast. Then suitably fortified with a robust car you can reach Old Moses Camp (from Meru or Nanyuki) or the Meteorological Station (from Naro Moru), having checked through the gates. “From Naro Moru, a well signposted mostly paved road leads 17 kms to the Park entrance at 2400 ms. If driving from Nairobi one can also follow the signposts for Naro Moru gate around 10 km before Naro Moru Town, following a good paved road which then joins up with the road from Naro Moru Town itself. Past the entrance a paved road leads to the Met Station trailhead at 3050 ms where cars can be parked. Along Sirimon Route 28 kms from Nanyuki, a paved road from the gate leads to Old Moses Hut and Judmaier Camp at the roadhead at 3350 ms. The track climbs 300 ms up the hill behind the hut to a communications station. Just beyond this point the track splits with the left hand route proceeding to the Mackinder Valley direct, and the right hand route going via the Liki North Hut”. These are normally the terminus and travellers can enjoy strolling along the paths and trails. Only fit persons should try walk further up the mountain – but the views, one you have negotiated on foot the vertical bog and reached Teleki Valley, are well worth the effort. With not too much effort, using either Naro Moru or Sirimon Gates, you can reach the edge of the glacier before returning home. Prior arrangements must be made with the Mountain Club of Kenya if you want to stay in a hut on the mountain but there are do-it-yourself bandas at Met Station and the Sirimon Gate. Otherwise Naro Moru, Nanyuki, and Meru Towns have plenty of accommodation options.
34. Theemwe Route
Commencing at Chuguu in Murungurune of South Imenti, Theemwe Route up Mount Kenya is one of the most recent and easiest routes to Point Lenana. At the forest edge, just a 100 ms from the tarmac road, is the first campsite where hikers can layover for the night before ascending the Mount Kenya. The camp has a viewpoint to see all the three peaks early in the morning when the sky is clear with no mist. 5 kms from the camp climbers go past the Theemwe Camp and Lodge which serves as a useful base for those not aiming to climb Mount Kenya to Point Lenana. Of interest for those staying at Theemwe Camp is a visit to the picturesque Makobo Waterfall. The next camp to be reached is the Iraru Camp at the foot of Ithangune Hill. About 2km from Iraru Camp, in stupefying view, is the spellbinding Giant Billiard Table Mountains, sometimes known as Kiringo. Further along River Mutonga is crossed on the approach to Mugi Hills at 3657 ms before reaching the junction splitting Theemwe and Chogoria Trails.
35. Theemwe Mineral Springs
Theemwe Mineral Springs are adjacent to Theemwe Camp and set in a natural crater-like-basin surrounded by thick forest trees. The bottom of the crater is about 10-acres in area and ringed by two rivers, which converge at the east-end of the crater to form River Kaburia – a tributary of River Mutonga. The mineral springs are set about at the bottom of the crater and they spring from volcanic rocks. There are several of these mineral springs and they are used for different purposes. The locals refer to these pot-like rocks as Konguuka-Theemwe which translates as pot of Theemwe salty springs. “In days gone by, it was mythically believed that if you deeped your hand in the hole of the pot like rock, whatever you picked from the bottom divined information about your future well-being”.
36. Marania Route
Marania Route to Mount Kenya commencing at the Marania Forest Station in Ntirimiti of Kibirichia Location takes on average four days round-trip to Point Lenana. Some sites of interest along Marania Route include Mbaru Crater, Solo Camp (which is located 8-10 hours hike from Marania Gate), Rugushu Stream near Solo Camp and Major’s Camp (about 10 hours hike from Solo Camp). The hike from Major’s Camp to Point Lenana is relatively short and accomplished in three hours. Other highlights include Minto’s Camp reached on the return back from the Major’s Camp on one of two ways to decent the mountain. Marania Route passes through Mount Kenya Forest up to the Kenya School of Adventure and Leadership (KESAL) and to the moorland of thick shrubs and glades. Past the moorland, the three peaks – Batian, Nelion and Lenana – are clearly visible.
37. Lake Rutundu
Lake Rutundu is a volcanic crater lake set at 3078 ms in the northeast flanks of Mount Kenya. It is relatively small in size (0.4 km2), with a maximum depth of 11 ms, and situated about 90 ms above treeline in vegetation profile dominated by woodland, sub-alpine shrubs and grasses. It was produced by a single event eruption and exhibits no hot springs or furmarolic activity. The lake was first cored and cited by Coetzee and Van Zinderen Bakker in 1967. Lake Rutundu has subsequently evolved in various ways not envisaged by its earliest visitors and is now regarded by many as one of the surpassing fishing destinations in Kenya, along with the nearby Lake Alice and Lake Ellis. Its location in relation to other spectacular scenery of Mount Kenya is no less interesting, located just below the grand Giants’ Billiard Table, the chain of 300 ms high conical hills spotted to the west, Kazita Gorge spotted to the southwest and the pale buff and brown pumice tuffs. Also of interest are the Rutundu Log Cabins and Ithaguni Hill. Adventure-makers planning a quick trip to Lake Rutundu can drive on a fairly motorable 35 kms all-weather road branching off near Kisima Farm along A2 Nanyuki to Meru Road. It is not a difficult drive to get to Lake Rutundu even for drivers with only basic off-roading experience. Motorists lacking four wheel-drive should watch the weather. January to February are the safest dry months.
38. Rutundu Log Cabins
In the 1940’s Fishing in Kenya grew exponentially and was such a resounding success that it was immediately followed by development of fishing lodges in both parks in Central Kenya (Mount Kenya and Aberdare National Parks) as well as at the vast lakes lying in the Rift Valley like Lakes Turkana, Baringo and Naivasha. This continued into the 1960’s when mounting organizational leaps grew the sport along the Coast of Kenya. Originally known as Rutundu Fishing Lodges a hop north of Lake Rutundu, these two log cabins enjoy superb vistas that can only be Africa, the high moorlands of Mount Kenya and the crispiness and coolness of bright days, the rolling mists and drizzle on others. These are perfect for the fisherman, romantics at heart and an off-the-grid family hidey-hole. “Rustic but comfortable with open log fires which keep them snug and warm during the cold mountain nights, the main cabin has a sitting and dining room, verandah, kitchen and a large bedroom with a double bed, bunk bed and en-suite bathroom. The smaller cabin is detached from the main building and has a large bedroom with a double bed and two single beds, and an en-suite bathroom”. Rutundu sleeps four people comfortably but larger groups can be accommodated if guests are willing to share rooms. The cabins have been built along the lines of an Alaskan log cabin, using large cedar logs collected in the forests around the mountain. Moss fills the cracks between the logs. Guests to Rutundu Log Cabins must be self-reliant and self-catering. There is a gas oven and hob and an outdoor fridge, but no freezer. The tap water at Rutundu comes from a spring and is safe for drinking. Beddings, towels, crockery, cutlery and utensils are all provided. There’s no electricity – all lighting is from solar lamps.
According to several informed sources, the potential future King and Queen of England got engaged on the 20th of October, 2010 at Rutundu Log Cabins. They came to relax and to fish. The couple drove up from Lewa Downs, the wildlife reserve where they have holidayed in the past and where Prince William spent part of his gap year before attending the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. – CNN
39. Lake Alice
“The Ithanguni (Lake Alice) and Rutundu basins are both alongside trachytic necks and are formed in relatively separate volcanic ashes. Their proximity to necks which have evidently been predominantly explosive in their mode of eruption suggests that they are due to phreatic explosions, a result of contact of groundwater with the lower still hot parts of the necks” – B.H. Baker. Not to be confused with Lake Ellis, the 48-acres Lake Alice (sometimes known as Lake Ithaguni) occupies a crater shaped depression on the side of Ithaguni Hill, about 400 ms south of Lake Rutundu. Unique to Lake Alice is the tremendous Ithaguni Hill which is the largest of the volcano cones on Mount Kenya rising to 3870 ms. This lofty squat flat-topped cone formerly supported a small ice-cap separate from the main system to the west. The deepest sections exposing the Ithanguni Hill occur on the steep slopes southeast of Lake Alice, between the southern moraine and the cliff face. Its upper 200 ms contains mostly pale buff, yellow-brown and brown ashes. Lake Alice, the largest of the 26 small lakes and tarns in Mount Kenya National Park was named after the English noblewoman Alice Montacute, 5th Countess of Salisbury, 6th Baroness Monthermer and 4th Baroness Montagu, who was on a safari expedition of Kenya at the time of its discovery. A tour of Lake Alice is easily combined with a recce of Lake Rutundu.
40. Lake Ellis
The 28-acres Lake Ellis (and Höhnel) differs from many other lakes and tarns found in Mount Kenya National Park is that it has a brown shade hue due to the abundance of lacustrine vegetation and the resulting humus-stained water. It sits almost equidistant between Lake Michaelson (6 kms north) and Lake Alice (5 kms south) in close proximity to Urumandi Hut on the northern ridge of the Gorges Valley. Some of the natural formation near Lake Ellis include the small ponds connected to the main lake, Mugi Hill – situated 2 kms east of the lake and rising 180 ms above the surrounding country, and the Giants’ Billiard Table in the distant south. Of a more recent development is the upgraded paved road to Lake Ellis along Theemwe Route en route Point Lenana. Many of the lakes and tarns in Mount Kenya National Park are situated around the slopes of the main peak and mostly on the floors of the large cirques. Among the rock-basin lakes are: Oblong, Hausburg, Emerald and Nanyuki Tarns situated in the head of Hausburg Valley; and Gallery Lake and the larger of the Thompson Tarns in the Hobley Valley. Other small lakes include the Tyndall Tarn, Harris Tarn and Kami Tam. Both the Curling Pond and the Lewis Tarn are tiny pro-glacial pools.
41. Lake Michaelson
Although this sits just over border in Meru County, no conversation of Chogoria Route, and for that matter hiking Chogoria Route, would be complete without a mention of the splendorous lochan of Lake Michaelson occupying one of the glacially excavated rock basins in the moorland area of Mount Kenya National Park. It is one of the more memorable sights seen along Chogoria Route; which speaks volumes about its grandeur. It is sighted between Nithi River Camp and Camp Minto, mostly on day three. The first impression on the hiker is how blue the water is, despite it being the most photographed of the 27 tarns in Mount Kenya National Park. Lake Michaelson is encircled on three of its sides by the steep crags formed from centuries of erosion piecing together pier-like obelisks which are spectacularly distinguished as “the Temples”. The magnificent Lake Michaelson, with mirror-like reflection and crystalline clarity, which is located at 14,000 ft., is also a treasured campsite for mountaineers as well as a famed stop for air-safaris. On most days, Vivienne Falls can also be sighted from here.
42. Timau River Lodge
The compact family-run Timau River Lodge, on the slopes of Mount Kenya, is a genuinely rustic and off-beat cabin style getaway. Surrounded by 800 acres of cider forest and set next-door to a sparkling stream, it offers an idyllic jumping-off place to many of the places of interest: Mount Kenya Sirimon Gate 9 kms, Lewa Conservancy 20 kms, Ol Pejeta Conservancy 44 kms, Solio Ranch 70 kms and Meru National Park 130 kms. For the avid fishermen Lake Alice, a mecca for the largest rainbow trout in Kenya, is within convenient reach of the lodge. It is located 24 kms from Nanyuki Town (and 1 km before Timau) via A2 Road.
43. Farms at Timau
Agriculture is the buttress of Meru’s blomming economy. While majority of the farmers have small farms, large farms also exist in the northern areas of Timau, in Buuri Sub-county. For years many of us have enjoyed great vistas composed by these farms and the privilege of being allowed to drive across a fine farmland view. Alas this pleasure is still a joy for repeat motorists along A2 Road between Nanyuki and the turnoff to Meru Town. The 6 largest farms at Timau specialize mainly in horticulture and dairy farming. The bulk of these are Kisima, Marania and Ol Donyo Farms – collectively covering almost 10000 ha. Kisima Farm is about 6000 ha, and started as a family farm in the 1920s for breeding Merino sheep. Cultivation on just 400 ha of the farm started in the 1940s. By the 1960s, approximately 50 percent of Kisima Farm’s land was under cereal production (wheat, maize and barley). Diversification continued after the company was put under professional management in 1979, and the farm continues to specialise in cereals, while expanding production to certified potato seeds, horticulture and floriculture. Kisima Farm operates a substantial corporate social responsibility, assisting surrounding communities with education, healthcare, water projects, agricultural extension and environmental sustainability. There always have been some farms in Timau area that take in guests. Indeed the experience in these farms in singular and exciting. Some of the notable farms to visit here include Kisima and Olepangi Farms. The latter also provides lodging facilities.
Geography of Meru County
Meru County’s position on the eastern slopes of Mt Kenya and the equator has highly influenced its natural conditions. Altitude ranges from 300m to 5,199m above sea level. This has influenced the atmospheric conditions leading to a wide variety of micro climates and agro-ecological zones. The drainage pattern in marked by rivers and streams originating from catchment areas such as Mt. Kenya and Nyambene Range. These cut through the hilly terrain on the upper zones to the lower zones and drains into the Tana and Uwaso Nyiro Rivers. The rivers form the principal source of water for both domestic and agricultural use.
Land Use in Meru County
The major land use in Meru County is mainly for agricultural activities for both crops farming and livestock-keeping. Other uses include cultural and forestry conservation. There are large scale farming carried out by private companies in Timau. These are mainly for wheat farming with Kisima being the largest in the county. Livestock farming is also done on group ranches in Tigania and Igembe. The existing resources are not likely to be able to sustain Meru’s tremendous growth rate of population. As such, there is a likelihood that the land will not be able to provide employment for growing population. The people are likely to be pushed out of agricultural economy that can no longer be expanded. The population increase will inevitably lead to increasing fragmentation of the land.
Highlights in Meru County
Tourism industry is fairly developed in Meru County, with Meru National Park being the major tourist site. Lewa conservancy, that’s privately owned, attracts tourists and competitive sports like cross country, rhino charge and marathon. The county also has Mt. Kenya which is a major tourist destination. The diverse cultures and heritage among the Meru community are another form of tourist attraction such as conservation of traditional worship places by Nchuri-Ncheke.
Population in Meru County
The population density in Meru County is widely distributed among the nine constituencies, with the average density in the county being 282 people / km2 in 2012. Population density ranges from a low of 134 in Buuri constituency to a high of 544 in Igembe South. Meru County has a population growth rate of 2.1 per cent. The 2012 projected population of the county stood at 1,443,555; which was projected to be 1,536,422 in 2015 and 1,601,629 in 2017. The growth in its population will strain the available resources such as land. Major urban centres in Meru County are Meru, Maua, Nkubu, igoji and Muthara. The projected 2012 urban population stood at 118,711 which was about 8.5% of the total population.
Airports in Meru County
Meru County is served by one airstrip; Gaitu airstrip in Meru Central which has been updated to serve more flights. Isiolo Airport lies 53 kms from Meru Town.
Roads in Meru County
Meru County is well served with a fairly good road network with many areas being accessible during all season. The county has 1,259.9 kms of road network of which 225.7 kms is bitumen, 266.7 km gravel, and 767.1 kms of earth surface.
Climate in Meru County
The topography of Meru County has a critical influence on its climate. The high land masses lessen the effect of high temperatures and rate of evaporation and cause them to loose a greater amount of moisture than its low-lying areas. The south and south east slopes of Mt. Kenya receive more rainfall (between 1250 and 2250 millimetres annually) than the eastern and northern lowland which receive moderate amounts of rainfall and far more than the lower parts of Buuri area bordering Isiolo County, which are arid. The drier northern and eastern areas receive less than 500 millimetres of rainfall a year. Temperatures range from a low of 8 Degrees C to a high of 32 Degrees Celsius during the cold and hot seasons respectively. The climate ranges from temperate with a 20 C mean temperature in the higher altitude areas around Mt. Kenya to tropical with an annual mean temperature of 33°C in the low and dry areas around Tharaka, Mikinduri, Kianjai, Charia, Meru National Park and the northern grazing areas.
National Monuments in Meru County
- Lake Thai
- Bututia Sacred Lake
- Giitune Sacred Forest